I’ve just finished reading Nathan Curnow’s half of Radar, a 2012 Walleah Press collection shared between Nathan and Kevin Brophy. (The title of this post comes from “Gently Against the Grain”.) Great way to spend a spare sliver of a Tuesday. I should be reading more. Great poetry always reminds me I should be reading more. On to Kevin’s half!
I have some thrilling news I’ve been struggling to keep quiet: a poem of mine has been shortlisted in the Overland Judith Wright Prize for Emerging Writers. It is a wonderful feeling to be included on this list, alongside 11 very talented poets, especially as this is a personally significant poem. Our house-Francis (aka Jeremy Thompson) was shortlisted for this same prize back in 2011; he’d actually forgotten until today, so now I’m doubly pleased. May the odds be ever in our favour, shortlisters!
I’ve been darting back and forth between New Farm and everywhere else this week, with World Theatre Festival on at Brisbane Powerhouse. Thus far I’ve managed to catch All That Fall (Pan Pan Theatre), JiHa Underground (Motherboard Productions) and She Would Walk the Sky (Company 2). Here’s my review of the latter for The Guardian UK (the show is on its way to London after Brisbane) and here’s my friend Nerissa’s Arts Hub review. And here’s an overview/preview of WTF14 Tahnee Robinson and I cooked up for Theatre People.
Make sure you catch at least something at this innovative festival! I’ve never experienced anything like All That Fall, which I think I’d categorise as “listening theatre”. Audience members sat together in rocking chairs (I took the photo above to show you) and listened to Samuel Beckett’s first radio play commissioned for the BBC. I’ve heard The Great Spavaldos is a unique experience, putting you in the role of trapeze artist via, I presume, immersive science-magic. She Would Walk the Sky experiments with Brisbane Powerhouse’s wonderful and challenging spaces (read both reviews above to read some contrasting thoughts on that).
In other news, I have an essay on consent and ethical nonmonogamy included in the upcoming Sex Issue of The Lifted Brow, which you can pre-purchase here (or, if you’re in Brisbane, at Avid Reader after March 1). There’ll be launches in Melbourne and Sydney early in March, too. 88 pages of awesome writing by awesome writers (and also me). Woooo!
P.S. I have bought a stack of crafting supplies and I am super excited to start creating horrifying regresty-able works of art for friends (and maybe also some poetry crafts). Stay tuned for BROOCHBACK MOUNTAIN.
Part II of our World Theatre Festival interviews series brings us into conversation with ANDY FREER of Snuff Puppets.
OFFSTREET: Describe your show in under 25 words.
ANDY FREER: Wedhus Gembel explores the tensions between traditional and contemporary Indonesian life. It is a parable about the cycle of life and duality; from destruction there is creation, from chaos there is harmony.
OS: What stands out for you about the festival’s aims and programming in 2014?
AF: WTF’s commitment to presenting irreverent, cross-cultural, globally relevant programming matches Snuff Puppets’ company ethos to push boundaries and create entertaining, experimental and culturally diverse performances that challenge the possibilities of theatre today.
OS: Wedhus Gembel is an Australian-Indonesian collaboration. What have cast members learned from one another during this extended collaboration, especially in travelling to India and Peru?
AF: Collaboration is key to this work; it was how it was created and it is how it continues to run and be presented. Wherever we tour the show we run a free two-day performance-making workshop with people from the local community. The work created over those days is then presented within the show. Sharing and learning from each other within new groups of people and cultures gives everyone an amazingly diverse place to learn and discover.
Having toured throughout Java, Indonesia and been presented in Melbourne, Australia and Lima, Peru, the cultural diversity of these places has impacted this collaboration, creating an endlessly rich and fascinating learning experience for everyone involved. Wedhus Gembel is essentially a visual spectacle that transcends language barriers and covers universal themes.
The form lends itself to being a cross-fertilisation of cultures primarily because of the Australian/Indonesian collaboration, but also because it includes a performance-making workshop in whatever country we are presenting. Inherently we absorb the culture, living and performing with the people of these new places.
OS: What are the challenges and benefits of telling a story with puppets of such epic proportions?
AF: The challenges technically are often transporting and storing our giant puppets. Interestingly, the solving of this problem became a benefit. We were able to pack the whole show into our luggage quota; now a five-metre mountain-volcano plus all the puppets and props travel with us in our luggage. The scale of our puppets, all being bigger than an average human, give a sense for the audience of being in a transgressive space. It is in this place that audiences are disarmed and perspectives shifted.
The puppets play in the realm of mythology and dreams, creating a joyously chaotic and transformative outdoor spectacle of epic proportions.
OS: What will Wedhus Gembel leave its audiences feeling?
AF: Our aim is to give our audiences an insight into an amazingly rich and exotic Javanese culture. They will be swept up in a story of love and nature, superstition, chaos, magic and mythology. There is also some very cool music and we invite the audience onto and into the performance . . . it must be seen to be believed.
WEDHUS GEMBEL runs from Feb 18 to 22 for World Theatre Festival.
Throughout my life as an arts reviewer, World Theatre Festival at Brisbane Powerhouse has been my favourite Brissie festival. You’ll see work you’d never otherwise have a chance to see — and you’ll never know what to expect from each year’s diverse program. To kick off our series of WTF14 interviews, I asked STEFANIE PREISSNER about bringing her black comedy from Ireland to Australia.
OFFSTREET: Describe your show in under 25 words.
STEFANIE PREISSNER: It’s an Irish girl’s experience of trying to maintain relationships with people who keep emigrating to Australia. Basically.
OS: I reckon WTF is one of Australia’s most diverse and dynamic festivals. What stands out for you about the festival’s aims?
SP: Having the opportunity to be part of a festival that programmes such varied and diverse work is something that doesn’t happen often. The stakes are high and that’s always scary but I’m excited to stand up there with the best of them.
OS: Have you visited Brisbane before? If no, what are you expecting?
SP: I’m looking forward to seeing a city that I have only heard about on Facebook from my friends who have moved there. It’s a place that is idealised and sensationalised in Ireland as a destination where all the things that are awful about Ireland and the life of an Irish 20-something are answered. Also: Steve Irwin’s zoo.
OS: The entirety of the show is told in verse. What were the benefits and the challenges of incorporating poetry into contemporary theatre?
SP: I think there’s a risk of autobiographical work becoming a bit indulgent or overly sentimental and putting restrictions on the writing opens up a whole other part of my brain and stops me saying the things that I have to re-read through my hands because they are so totally cringe-worthy. So challenging myself to write in verse makes me far more creative. Also on a very basic level, I can write in rhyme and not many people can, so I think it’s a skill worth using, practising and honing.
OS: How do you think the show’s themes will resonate with audiences on the other side of the world?
SP: I’m scared. I’m not sure. There’s a chance that people will be offended at the message of the show. I’m hoping that a discussion might start on Twitter with people’s opinions on it, but I am not expecting everyone to love it or agree with it. It’s a challenging piece.
Start the conversation with Stef on Twitter: @stefpreissner. SOLAPADEINE IS MY BOYFRIEND runs from Feb 12 to 16 at Brisbane Powerhouse for World Theatre Festival.